Belgian smock, combat outfit for a Civilian Guard volunteer
|Worn by||Possibly Mathieu Brialmont|
|Dimensions||96 cm (L) x 51 cm (W)|
|Materials||Linen, mother-of-pearl, wool and cotton|
|Where to be seen within the War Heritage Institute||Royal Military Museum, Dutch Gallery|
This blue smock is a combat outfit worn by the Civilian Guard in the 19th century. The dark blue work blouse sits generously around the body and comes down to the knees. It is made of linen and has mother-of-pearl buttons. This particular smock was produced between 1825 and 1830, just before the Belgian Revolution.
In August 1830 the performance of The Mute of Portici was the final trigger for the Belgian Revolution. Riots broke out everywhere and chaos reigned. The authorities were no longer able to handle the situation, and tasked the Civilian Guard with restoring law and order. Around this time the various Civilian Guards united into the Civic Guard.
This smock is said to have belonged to Mathieu Brialmont, a soldier who distinguished himself during the wars of the French First Empire. He took part in military campaigns in Spain and Russia, as well as the in battle of Waterloo. During the revolution he embraced the Belgian cause and used his connections to facilitate victory during the siege of Venlo.
Brialmont was eventually promoted to lieutenant general. He was city commander of Venlo when the city belonged to Belgium. He later became aide first to King Leopold I and then to Leopold II. He also briefly was Minister of War. With his passing in 1885 the last Belgian who had served in the French imperial army ranks disappeared.
Did you know that…
the smock also is the garment of Tchantchès, a famous character in Liège folklore? Tchantchès is portrayed by a puppet and is the personification of the stubborn, recalcitrant and festive Liège citizen. The Brussels giant Bompa, always present at the traditional Meyboom plantation, wears a blue smock as well.
What makes this smock a top piece?
In the 19th century all craftsmen, farmers or painters wore blue smocks and the item really was the workers’ outfit par excellence. In Belgium the blue smock evolved from workers’ clothing to revolutionary uniform, which made it hugely popular in our country. Moreover, during the Kingdom of Belgium’s first decade the garment was also part of the compulsory Civic Guard uniform. This blue smock is a top piece because of its symbolic and emotional significance.
-Ilse Bogaerts, Head of the Textiles Service, War Heritage Institute
-Gillian Van Weyenbergh, technical collaborator Uniforms, War Heritage Institute